Eerie strands of a synthesizer’s melody slip through the darkness and into focus as we descend upon “War,” the opening track in The Sweet Kill’s Love & Death and quite possibly the most textured of the six songs included on this all-new extended play. The vocal protrudes through the wall of sound, imparting an elegant harmony onto a previously blank canvas that does a fine job of illustrating all of the emotion within our singer’s heart in crystal clear ribbons of sonic wonderment. The Sweet Kill has dished out some really gripping material in the past, but in the first few bars of this engrossing record-starter, he exceeds any expectations I had coming into this review.
We continue forward in Love & Death on the whim of a swinging string in “The Girl Who Kissed the World Goodbye,” the first single from the record and a shot of pop adrenaline steeped in electronic fuzz radiance. The instrumentation isn’t marred in plasticity, and although the structure has more in common with an EDM track than it does anything else in indie pop at the moment, it doesn’t feel particularly clubby in tone. There’s a story to be told here, and it’s one that won’t play out on the dancefloor exclusively.
“Hurt,” originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails and famously covered by Johnny Cash not long before his death, is all the more searing a song when filtrated through the guttural gothic wallop of The Sweet Kill’s soundboard, and in the midst of its melodic chaos, we come across one of his most passionate vocals on the whole of the EP. It’s not quite as moving a harmony as that of “Powerless,” but it definitely stands out as one of the only cover songs I’ve heard this season that didn’t leave me cringing with utter disgust and critical discontent.
“Goodnight” slows down the energy for a moment to show off The Sweet Kill’s pendulous side, and in this ambient-influenced ballad, the instrumental prowess almost supersedes the contribution of the verses, which aren’t enigmatic but instead simple, cut and dry. The songwriting is at its leanest and meanest here, and in the concluding track “Hello World” as well, but the structure isn’t so minimalist that this provocative percussive beat becomes drowned in synth pop surrealism. “Hello World” brings Love & Death to a poignant close on a very inspired note and, more importantly, leaves me tempted to play the record over again almost every time that I listen to it.
There’s no need for a lot of debate on this one, guys – The Sweet Kill outdoes himself and the standards set forth by his scene in Love & Death, and for what it’s missing in traditional pop pragmatism it more than makes up for in sheer sonic moxie and lyrical relatability that tops most of the stuff we’ve seen from his closest competitors in recent months. I only just recently got into this artist, but you can believe me when I say that I’ll be keeping a close eye on his development as time goes on.
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